Controversy has continued to trail as the Delta State Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s alleged N250 million sponsorship of 16 private-sector journalists to London for a training on “Investigative Joirnalism” which has been described as a jamboree.
This comes as a crisis is currently brewing in the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), which could lead to the removal of its Chairman, Mr Norbert Chiazor, over the selection of the reporters for the London training.
Members of the NUJ in the state have condemned in strong terms the involvement of Mr. Chiazor, describing it as a sell-out, clandestine and compromise, stressing that the “corrupt” manner he led the selected private journalists to the jamboree said to be holding at the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London is an impeachable offence.
SaharaReporters investigations show that the state government in its bid to buy the media, hiding under its human capital development agenda, allegedly approved a whooping N250 million for the training of the 16 journalists in London for the second time. Last year, the council chairman had risked impeachment following his involvement in controversial and corrupt circumstances with the state government to take 12 journalists in state for a similar jamboree at the Reuters/Thompson Foundation in London, United Kingdom.
Before now, the state chairman of the union has been accused by members of the NUJ in the state of corruption, flagrant disregard of the union’s constitution, lack of transparency, respect for members, romance with government to the detriment of members, as well as intimidation and harassment of members.
It was reliably gathered that the embattled NUJ state chairman had reached an alleged deal with the state government to be sponsoring selected private sector journalists abroad for jamborees in the name of training so as to avoid any form of bad press throughout the reign of the administration. According to a release from the office of the state Information Commissioner, Mr. Chike Ogeah, 16 journalists from the print and electronic media in the state have commenced a one-week training at the world renowned Thomson Reuters Institute in London under the sponsorship of the state government with the theme “Investigative Journalism” focusing on ethics and the principles of investigation in news writing.
Ogeah confirmed that the “Training is the second to be sponsored by the Delta State Government. Last year, 12 journalists were at the Thomson Reuters Institute for one-week training on News Writing.”
He said Governor Uduaghan, who gave his approval for the training, is of the belief that it was in line with his administration’s programme of human capital development.
It was revealed that apart from the 16 state-sponsored journalists, others including the General Manager of the state-owned Pointer Newspapers, Mr. Bioseh Iwobi, whose tenure has elapsed, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Mr. Austin Mowah due for retirement by 28th of this month, the special assistant and personal assistant to the commissioner led by Ogeah himself left the shores of the country on Sunday, September 22, 2013 for the jamboree in London which sources said would last for two weeks. According to a Government House member of staff, “The governor is at good wasting public funds. Some of the persons on the list were the same persons who attended the first jamboree in London. Mowah, Ogeah, Chiazor, SA to the commissioner and few others currently in London were among the first set.” However, a group in the state chapel under the auspices of “Chapel Leaders Forum” were said to have started collating signatories towards the removal of the chairman. It was reliably gathered that the chapel leadership shall be meeting Wednesday to decide the fate of the embattled chairman. According to the members, the chairman has been running the union like a private empire as well as his failure to hold monthly congresses which has breached Article F 6a of the union which states inter alia that “the state congress shall meet monthly.”
Members of group are also not happy that Article 2 c has also been breached several times by the Norbert Chiazor-led executive as it has failed to “encourage the participation of members in decision making processes in the union.” The chapel’s leadership and it’s members were quick to mention the 2012 edition of the Press Week organized by the Council where the issue was not discussed at SEC or Congress before a committee was set up and inaugurated by the council. “This led to a subtle boycott of the lecture aspect of the Week where Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan despite all efforts to flag-off the ceremony had to mandate his Deputy, Prof. Amos Utuama (SAN) to represent him due to the poor turnout of journalists for the event. Lagos-based lawyer and gubernatorial aspirant in Delta State, Festus Keyamo who delivered the lecture spoke to a hall that had less than 10 per cent of practising journalists in attendance,” a reporter who is in the know of what is going on in the union, but craved anonymity said. “Also, during the 2012 edition of the Press Week, despite Comrade Chiazor informing members of SEC that the National Executive Council of the NUJ approved that only five persons be given awards during the Award Nite, more than eight persons bagged the NUJ, Delta State Council awards prompting questions as to ‘how much was paid for the awards?’ to be asked and the disregards of the order by NEC,” another reporter lamented. A member of the Chiazor-led executive also lamented that the NUJ in the state are worried that the NEC of the Union may not do anything against Chiazor as he has at several ocassions boasted that “I put Comrade Garba (NUJ National President, Comrade Mohammed Garba) there, I followed him throughout his campaign and if you are going to complain, who will you complain to?”
Meanwhile, a pressure group reacting to the alleged wastefulness of the state funds by the state government, Liberate Delta Peoples’ Movement, has condemned in strong terms Uduaghan’s sponsorship of the 16 reporters to the London training.
In a statement issued by the group’s spokesman, Mr. Cadre Drake, titled “Delta Condemned Uduaghan For Wasting Delta State Funds On 16 Private Sector Journalists For Reuters Course In London” and made available to SaharaReporters said, “Members of the group have expressed great shock and disappointment to hear that this current course was the ‘second’ such sponsorship of journalists from the state coffers. Liberate believes that it is not the business of Delta State to act as the human resources department of privately owned media houses.
“In addition, the group affirms its strong support for the principal of ‘freedom of the press’ and it is sad that even the media house could not see how this might compromise their reputation as independent press. The group has also raised concerns about Reuters accepting these candidates on their course and have written to Reuters to tender a formal complaint.
“Uduaghan is taking the ordinary citizen of Delta State for granted by the unadulterated waste of the State funds. Even if this was a good idea, with more 18 people travelling to UK, it would have been significantly cheaper to invite Reuters to Warri. The saddest part is the incompetence of the Uduaghan administration is that it’s not prone to taking correction and listening to good advice; the people deserve more information from the Commissioner of Information”.
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